UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Elucide Litke, David


This thesis presents the musical composition Elucide, scored for a chamber ensemble of ten players. The work builds upon concepts and compositional methods that are central to the spectral approach to composition, established by such composers as Gérard Grisey, Tristan Murail, and Hugues Dufourt. This musical genre is characterized by a focus on the acoustic properties of sound, a concern that is typically reflected both in rich and colourful musical textures, as well as in the conceptual foundations of compositional processes. It is often the case that spectral composers will refer to computer analyses of acoustic phenomena during the pre-compositional stages of a work’s development, using these data to generate the piece’s raw materials and to inform structural decisions. Although the spectral approach is rooted in the perceptual appreciation of sonic phenomena, the manner in which analysis data are obtained and applied can encourage a range of listening postures, potentially leading the listener towards both perceptually- and semantically-oriented hearings. Furthermore, this music displays varying symbolic facets stemming from the poetic idea of a musical composition unfolding from the internal structure of sonic materials. The interplay of these dynamics raises a number of issues that are inherent in the compositional application of spectral information; this thesis first examines the spectral endeavor from a philosophical perspective, and then goes on to demonstrate the ways in which Elucide develops from and comments upon these issues. In order to explicitly engage these dynamics in a musical composition, I developed a set of software tools using the graphical programming environment "OpenMusic". These tools provided raw musical materials that were employed at various levels during the compositional process. While the early stages of the work aim to draw aural connections between the overtone structures of source sounds and musical structures, individual spectral elements are progressively divorced from their acoustic origins and woven into musical semantic patterns over the course of the piece. In its elucidation of the relationships between perceptual phenomena and musical semantics, therefore, Elucide represents a broader exploration of the mechanisms by which the human mind finds meaning in sensory information.

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